Righto, so after a 4.30am wake up on the morning of the 19th of December 2014, I arrived at the Toronto bus-port, ready for the long trip across the boarder and into New York. But from point one.. The trip was not as easy as it could have been…
I arrived on time, early! in fact for my 5.30am bus. But of course the bus scheduled to carry us across the boarder broke down on its way… Which meant we were delayed a whole hour while waiting for a replacement to turn up.. A whole hour in which I was standing out in the cold, breaking out in hives and vowing never to travel with Greyhound again.. But when the vessel eventually did arrive the difficulties were not over, thanks to one extremely annoying family who persisted to waste everyone’s time throughout this 13 hour journey… I must admit however, without their existence the trip was otherwise very mundane and consisted primarily of sleep and day dreaming. So, in summarizing my trip into America I will simply construct a list of the ways in which this family pissed us all off…
1. Upon boarding the family were obviously trying to load extra packages into the bus that had not been paid for and that were in excess of the baggage allowances per person for the trip. And I mean, I’m sure this happens all of the time.. Heck, I had far more luggage than was allowed.. BUT I was super sly.. I carried mine on as hand luggage in a manner in which made it look much lighter than it actually was.. And when it wouldn’t fit below my seat, I sacrificed my leg space to keep it on board, making the rest of the trip a painful burden on my tail bone.. These guys however… They employed the whole extended family to come along and real seedily stand beside the line of boarding passengers, passing parcels under the rope barricade.. I’m guessing what they intended for it to look like, was that they were all about to board.. because that way they could get the packages on board under the assumption by the driver that there was less than 1 package per person.. and then they could just walk away after they were tucked well within the under-bus luggage compartment… However they simply were not pulling that off… instead the whole affair looked more like a mafia mission.. And resulted in a half an hour argument between the family and the bus driver.. In which, the driver eventually gave in to their “I no speak English” stand point, and just put the extra box on the bus..
2. Well, eventually the journey started, and we did make it to the Canada/USA boarder.. An experience which I was not new to, thanks to a trip to Chicago earlier in the year. But of course I am aware that this does not mean that everyone knows how the whole process works.. Which was made apparent..
Basically when you cross this boarder everyone has to get off the bus with ALL of their bags – so that they can be scanned, and the whole “interview” process can be undergone. And as the bus driver was kind enough to unload all of our larger bags for us, all we had to do was get our hand luggage inside, have a quick talk to a boarder control officer (its always so easy to cross boarders as a Kiwi) and then re-load all of our things. AND as the bus was only about half full, the whole process passed pretty seamlessly and pretty quickly, and all of the passengers were re-loading their bags and re-boarding the bus in no time.. Finally the driver hopped back on.. The driver started up the engine.. And the annoying family father stood up… He had left his passport behind…And although he wasn’t aware of it at this point… It was not all he had forgotten to check for.. So we stopped the bus. And eventually left, second time round.
3. Our next stop, was the stop which the annoying family was due to get off at (Hurrah!). And here is where their greatest waste of all of our time took place.
As they de-boarded they moved to the side of the bus to collect their many, many boxes – which had inconvenienced everyone involved throughout this trip.. And… They were not there. SOMEHOW this one family, among everyone who crossed the boarder that day, had not got the message, that we were all re-checking our bags at the boarder.. Further, for SOME REASON between the security staff at the boarder and the Greyhound bus company, it had been decided that the boxes would not be returned to the bus, and the annoying family after the boarder security check.. but instead would be couriered to Texas….
It is really hard for me to point the finger in any one direction with the amount of information that I have about this incident. Especially as everyone was pleading innocent, and no one was accepting responsibility. BUT what I do know, is that MY time, and the time of every other passenger on board that day.. was spent. And a conversation which could have gone something along the lines of: Bus Driver – “Sorry, your boxes were taken at the boarder to be couriered to your final destination (assuming the family was actually on their way to Texas..), they will be there waiting for you when you arrive”. Annoying family – “Oh, OK!. Thank you, now we don’t have to lug them through the airport”…. In reality was dragged out into a silly argument that lasted too long, and was very poorly communicated.
4. Once the family had departed, the bus trip was as flawless as it could have been. The only problem I had from that point onward, was the massive and literal pain in my butt that had developed from an un-natural 12 hours seated… which was exaggerated by the fact that all of our rest stops were reduced to compensate for the 1.5 hour departure lag we suffered from the start..
But, alas, that evening, around 8pm.. After a very hard 12 hours on a too-small bus, with too few leg breaks.. I arrived in New York!
And it was a huge relief to find upon arrival that after hours of battling against dodgy internet reception and fading cellphone batteries.. Me and my little brother Shane actually were able to locate one another within the massive bus and train station that is the New York Port Authority terminal. Actually… I didn’t even so much find him.. Really, he skipped into a closing elevator at the last minute, right next to me, completely undetected, and I was quite determined not to see him until he called out my name as I began to exit 2 floors up.. It was lucky one of us was keeping an eye out..
And thank goodness we did find each other, because he then helped me to drag my excessive (over airline capacity) baggage several blocks through the city to our hotel – which I had undoubtedly underestimated the distance of.. The total trip must have taken just over an hour.. And I could NEVER have done it alone.. We ended up taking the blocks in turns, alternating between a massive, old, 23kg suitcase which mum bought for me second-hand on TradeMe several years ago.. and a small, modern, carry on bag which featured functional wheels (although… by the end of the trip they were used and broken..). Pretty much.. While the modern carry-on case served as a leisurely break for whoever was lucky enough to be dragging it along.. The big green case.. Was damn hard work. And we both have the sore backs and aching shoulder muscles to prove it today..
Carrying styles ranged from the over the shoulder to a desperate drag, and the walk was long, but also served as a team building exercise and a personal challenge if nothing else. And as Shane had arrived early the same morning, and was fortunate enough to have had the whole day to explore the city and gain a broad sense of bearings before my own arrival, he lead us confidently and actually.. flawlessly back to the hotel. Which was a blessing, because had we had to carry those bags a single additional block, it is very likely I would have simply given up and forgone all the clothing that the cases contained..
BUT we made it! and the hotel happily checked our bags, although they would not allow us to personally check in without the presence of mum – who had made the booking under her own name. So we easily took the excuse to go get some dinner just a short while down the road at Burger King, where we happily gulped down soda refills and reveled in the huge variety liquid, sugary goods that are so typically American. And of course we had a chance to catch up..
I find it recurrently crazy that I now have to put in an effort to ensure that I stay in touch with my little brother.. Seeing as we no longer live in the same household, like we always did growing up.. And I’m always shocked when I see him by how he tends to grow up, even when I’m not around to see it..
However despite this, I am also often surprised to see how alike we’ve become, and how similarly we think..
So, it was really pleasant to find myself not only in New York, but in New York with him.
And after dinner, we eventually dragged ourselves back to the hotel lobby and pretty much just sat around wasting time while waiting for mum and dad to turn up, so we could take our luggage upstairs and check out our room for the next few days..
We’re staying in a hotel called the Sheraton Tribeca, just a short subway ride out of the main CBD. It is actually really quite nice, and features some very lovely front desk staff and generally tidy, well kept rooms. But anyway.. After about two hours of semi-anxious waiting.. our parents finally joined us around midnight! And we were all excited to finally be reunited, after a long time abroad on my behalf (CANADA EXCHANGE).
SO this late arrival means that is wasn’t until around 2am – after hugs and welcomes and catch-ups – That we all finally started to drift off to sleep.
A long, but worthy first night in New York!